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Dark, rich and boozy, Mississippi Mud Cake is everything you could want in a chocolate cake. While paging through one of my hand-written and collated cook books, I came across this recipe by Susan Purdy from her book A Piece of Cake. It was on yellowed newsprint from an old New York Times. Cut out, stapled and scotch-taped into my collection of recipes, this old friend called out to me to bake it. My husband and I were not disappointed.
Why Mississippi Mud Cake? Supposedly the finished cake (or more often, pie) resembled the dark river mud of the Mighty Mississippi. Call it what you will, but make this delicious cake the next time you crave a really, really great chocolate cake. And while there is a fair amount of booze (Bourbon in this case) in the recipe, the alcohol will all be cooked off during the baking process. All that remains are the the slightly sweet, caramel and vanilla flavors that define a good Bourbon. If you really don’t like Bourbon, you could sub in Rum, Cognac or Amaretto. The flavor profile will be somewhat different, but still delicious.
While this cake requires no adornment, it is wonderful served with a dollop of creme fraiche, good vanilla ice cream or freshly made whipped cream. Or just before serving, give this wonderful cake a dusting of powdered or icing sugar or unsweetened cocoa.
And while not strictly necessary, if you wish to amp up the booziness a bit, you can add a sugar glaze. It is one cup confectioner’s (icing) sugar and 1 Tablespoon milk or water, a pinch of salt and one Tablespoon of good Kentucky Bourbon. Stir well and pour over the top of the cake.
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Yield: 10 to 12 servings
5 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate (I like Baker’s Chocolate for this recipe)
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
1/4 cup powdered instant espresso
2 Tablespoons hot or boiling water
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup Bourbon, rum, cognac or Amaretto
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted room temperature butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar (Remember, you are using “unsweetened” chocolate!)
3 large eggs plus 1 additional large yolk at room temperature
1/4 cup full-fat sour cream, creme fraiche or whole-milk natural yogurt
Generously grease a 10-cup bundt or tube pan. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pot of hot, but not boiling water. The bottom of the bowl should NOT touch the water. When the chocolate is almost all melted, remove it from the heat and stir it through until smooth and glossy. Set it aside.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. In a bowl or 2-cup measuring cup, dissolve the espresso in the 2 Tablespoons of hot water. Then stir in the cold water and Bourbon and set this aside.
Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until fluffy and creamy. This should take at least a good 5 minutes with occasional pauses to scrape down the bowl and beater. Don’t skimp on the timing. It will make a huge difference to the finished product!
Beat in the eggs and additional yolk, one at a time. Then scrape down the bowl and add in the sour cream. Mix it well to thoroughly incorporate it.
Now add in the slightly cooled melted chocolate and beat until smooth and incorporated.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a large spatula start adding in the flour and reserved liquid mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. Every time you add in the liquid, the mixture will look a bit curdled and as if the liquid will never incorporate. It will. And when you add in the flour, the mixture will no longer look curdled. DO NOT OVER MIX! Just mix gently to thoroughly incorporate the flour so there are no lumps or flour bombs in the finished cake.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until the top looks somewhat cracked and a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. This will take about 65 minutes, although ovens do vary. Do not overbake the cake.
Remove the pan to a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes. Using a thin blade or spatula, carefully run it around the cake to make sure that it will release from the pan. Then place a cake or board over the top of the pan and invert the cake. Lift off the pan and allow the cake to cool completely. At this point you can serve it as is, or dust it with confectioner’s sugar or unsweetened cocoa powder.
The cake should be good for several days at room temperature if kept under a dome or well-wrapped.